Today I have a great honor and pleasure to join with Samdech, monks and our people in seeing off our soldiers from the RCAF for their first UN mission in Sudan. It is another page in history that never exists before. We may remember that dozens of years ago Cambodian soldiers had gone out to fight under the flag of the French colony. Some of them had gone all the way to Algeria. But this time we are sending our soldier under the UN mission for a complete humanitarian framework. May I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Ministry of National Defense, General Staff, the military engineering team and other concerned for providing training and supplying materials needed for our soldiers to fulfill this very important UN missions.
It is indeed a big decision and I am responsible before the history, the nation and voters. I am in the military uniform for the second time today since I left my post as commander in chief of the armed forces in 1999. I first put it on at the time when I presided over the burning out of marijuana at the Cobra-100 area. I put it on again today in honor of our soldiers before they leave Cambodia for a humanitarian mission in Sudan. What are the reasons behind sending de-mining troops to Sudan, which puts my position before the history and the 2008 election at stake? I have decided to name this de-mining team the unit 135 on March 2005. The first reason is that it is in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia which stipulates that the Kingdom of Cambodia adheres to the policy of being neutral, permanent and non-aligned, while peacefully coexists with neighboring countries and in the world… Cambodia allows no foreign forces presence, while would not station its troops in foreign countries, except on the condition that doing so is in the framework of the United Nations…
Secondly the decision is in line with the policy of integration that is one part of the Triangular Strategy that I put out on December 1998, which is to integrate as soon as we can into the international community, while using internal and external favorable factors focusing in building economy, reducing poverty, etc. Cambodia’s last accession to international organization has been WTO and now it is important that Cambodia actively participates in cooperative efforts in peacekeeping in the world. The third reason perhaps is because we have a request from the United Nations to go to a number of countries but I have decided that we must first of all send to Sudan. Questions arise that why we denied going to Haiti but choosing to go to Sudan. We have sent our troops to Sudan to observe the ceasefire agreement and now we send our de-miners there. Based on those experiences, the Government would decide where else should it send its forces to. The fourth reason because of internal development or internal peace positively allows for such a decision to be realized. If Cambodia were to have secession in parts I would not decide to join the UN mission as well.
Cambodia is a victim of mines and UXOs and there are more to be done. But we also have to share our efforts for the sake of a free-mine world. We have an obligation to help friends in the world. Cambodia is a signatory country of the Ottawa Treaty on mines and Sudan is a country that is victimized by mines like Cambodia was. We send 135 de-miners today and 09 soldiers have been sent before in the framework of observation mission of the truce. We have reserved about 1000 soldiers more and are taking part in serious training procedure. May I take this opportunity to give some advice to our soldiers as you are so honored to represent the country in this mission. You should also take up high discipline and morale in defense of your honors and that of the RCAF and the people of Cambodia. May I suggest that first you respect the independence and sovereignty of the host nation. You are not the occupation forces but the forces that work within the respect of Sudan’s sovereignty. Cambodia experienced the bad and the good lessons from UNTAC as some units from some countries violated Cambodia’s sovereignty and now our forces should at all not repeat their mistakes.
Second, the Cambodian forces should maintain good relations with the Sudanese, help them if you can everywhere you go and camp as you have done for the people of Cambodia. You should learn their difficulties because you are the best representing the 14 million Cambodians behind you here. Third, You should refrain from using inappropriately the UN privilege to import goods into the markets as this had been the worst actions under UNTAC time in Cambodia because their officers have the rights to purchase stuff free of tax. You should preserve the dignity of Cambodia though our country is poor. You should change to local currency in respect of the country’s norm of economics. You should refrain from using US dollars in any transactions in contrary to instruction of the Sudanese Government.
The fourth point perhaps you should maintain good relations with all other forces joining in the UN mission in Sudan. According to HE Chief of Staff Ke Kim Yan, our forces would be stationed with the Indian forces, so you should maintain good relations with the Indian forces. We have previously allowed our forces to borrow 1600 US dollar for one person at the start, and deduction will be made when the UN pays us for what we have done to equip and prepare the forces. But as this is the first UN mission for Cambodia, the Royal Government of Cambodia decides that you do not have to pay back the loan money of 1600 US dollars per person or 216,000 US dollars for 135 soldiers. They also maintain their regimes and allowances provided by the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff for their families.
May I take this opportune moment to express my sincere thanks to Australia which through HE Ambassador of Australia here helps our forces in perfecting their de-mining experiences and I would urge more countries to provide us medical equipments for teams as such so that more can be done in helping countries in need of de-mining assistance in the future./.